Impeachment nostalgia: 1868, 1974…

abused the power of the Presidency for personal and political gain

Erie County’s best blogger and writer, Jaquandor, a/k/a Kelly Sedinger, starts off this round of Ask Roger Anything.

We’re entering the second impeachment trial of my life (and there should have been a third, had Nixon not read the writing on the wall). Are you tired of these things?

richard-nixon---the-origins-of-watergate

The nature of the three impeachment procedures I lived through – I just missed Andrew Johnson’s – are so different. In Watergate, as you may remember, the beginning of the scandal was the break-in in June 1972. It was dismissed as a “third-rate burglary” by Nixon’s Press Secretary, Ron Ziegler. Nixon was re-elected so easily that the networks called the election c 7:30 pm before I had even had a chance to vote.

Yet early in 1973, the Senate voted 77-to-0 to approve a “select committee” to investigate Watergate, with Sam Ervin (D-NC) named chairman. The hearings ran from mid-May until early August, and I watched quite a bit of it. It was shown by the three networks in rotation, so as not to tick off the soap opera fans too much.

But it got a whole lot more interesting in mid-July when White House assistant Alexander Butterfield acknowledged there was a taping system in the Oval Office. At some point, I was watching every day when I wasn’t in class. A special prosecutor, Archibald Cox, subpoenaed the tapes, as did the Senate. Nixon got all “executive privilege”.

SNM

Then there was the “Saturday Night Massacre” on October 20, 1973. Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus, who recently died, both resigned rather than fire Cox. The Solicitor General, Robert Bork, finally did. The public, who had voted for the man less than a year earlier, were generally displeased.

On March 1, 1974, a grand jury in Washington, D.C., indicted several former aides of Nixon, including H. R. Haldeman, John Ehrlichman, former Attorney General John N. Mitchell, and Charles Colson, for hindering the Watergate investigation. The grand jury secretly named Nixon as an unindicted co-conspirator. John Dean and others had already pleaded guilty.

Nixon lost in the Supreme Court over whether he could hide the tapes. He turned them over in July 1974. About the time the “smoking gun” tapes were released implicating Nixon, the House Judiciary Committee voted to approve three articles of impeachment over four days. As you know, Nixon resigned less than two weeks later at the urging of some Republicans.

As much as I despised Nixon’s policies, I didn’t feel a sense of elation when he announced he was stepping down. It was more, as Gerald Ford put it soon after, “our national nightmare is over.”

Slick Willie


Now Bill Clinton’s impeachment I was aware of, but I certainly didn’t watch any of the Senate trial. Before that, as I mentioned at some point, I was in the same Boston hotel as Bill Clinton in September 1998. I was there to be on JEOPARDY! Clinton was there for a political fundraiser. No, I never saw him.

There were thousands of protesters outside the Omni Parker House (?). About half of them thought Bill was awful. But the other half thought Ken Starr was terrible. This was the early days of the Internet, so such explicit info some considered unsavory, and they blamed Starr.

When it all went down, I felt bad for Hillary and especially Chelsea. But I didn’t watch the proceedings at all. I did follow the news, though. It was right that Bill Clinton apologized to the country. Some of the chief GOP accusers, it later came out, had no right to the moral high ground.

Impeachment #3

That’s what I did with the 2019 story as well. There was so much wall-to-wall coverage that I was feeling no need to watch in real time. I will say I thought, even before the fact, that forcing Robert Mueller to testify was a mistake. He said as much. Mueller had a part in getting several indictments or guilty pleas.

I did see snippets of a lot of compelling testimony from the hearings in the fall. Gordon Sundland, the EU coordinator, political fundraiser, and definitely not of the “deep state”, was oddly entertaining. The others were solid citizens, doing their duty to their country.

Rudy Guiliani, an extra-governmental figure, by his own admission, forced out the Ukrainian ambassador back in April. So the claim that the July phone call with the new Ukrainian president was “perfect” is rather beside the point. It was, as John Bolton said, akin to a drug deal. The man abused the power of the Presidency for personal and political gain. He obstructed Congress illegally, which was settled law when SCOTUS ruled Nixon had to turn over his tapes.

Still, I think the issues taken up here, while legitimate, are too arcane for most people to follow. Christianity Today, of all publications, seems to understand it, though.

Follow the money

Frankly, I wish the House had gone after the emoluments issue. He may have been guilty of that on January 20, 2017, when he failed to put his businesses in a blind trust and maintained controlling interests.

He encouraged foreign entities to stay at his properties with the suggestion that it’d be in their countries’ best interest. The Air Force refueling near his Scottish resort, and staying there longer than necessary. (If the G7 did stay at Mar-a-lago, that would be prima facie proof of corruption.)

Yeah, he should have been impeached. But since the charges won’t stick, I suppose there is some fatigue on my part. A lot of it is towards the 2019 GOP, which is not the 1974 GOP. You can say you don’t believe the charges reach the level of impeachment, as Will Hurd (R-TX) stated. But to say things that happen didn’t happen, even though Guiliani, Mick Mulvaney and the man himself have acknowledged them publicly, that’s exhausting.

One more thing

The suggestion that because he’s “doing a good job”, one shouldn’t impeach a president is weird to me. Let’s say that he did something clearly a high crime or misdemeanor. He shoots someone on Fifth Avenue, for which one of his lawyers claims he couldn’t be prosecuted. Would you not impeach him – it’s always him – because the unemployment rate is 3.5%?

On the other hand, I would oppose impeaching him because of policies I disagree with. And I disagree a lot. Or because he’s a vulgar and boorish liar; those are not reasons to impeach.

Presidents Day 2019: Second Bill of Rights

“The unrestricted competition so commonly advocated does not leave us the survival of the fittest. The unscrupulous succeed best in accumulating wealth.”

Abraham Lincoln 1836
Abraham Lincoln, Congressman-elect from Illinois. icholas H. Shepherd, photographer. Springfield, Ill., 1846 or 1847

Some Presidential trivia:

From Summer Bowl 9 (Chuck Miller)

Donald Trump has 24, Ronald Reagan has 10, and John Tyler has the most at 30. The most what?

Who was the last U.S. President who did not nominate a judge for the U.S. Supreme Court?

JEOPARDY! game #7807 aired 2018-07-17

CITING THE PRESIDENT $400: In the 1970s: “When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal”
CITING THE PRESIDENT $800: In the 1970s: “Our long national nightmare is over”
CITING THE PRESIDENT $1200: “I do not expect the Union to be dissolved–I do not expect the house to fall–but I do expect it will cease to be divided”
CITING THE PRESIDENT $2000: In an early 20th c. message to Congress: “We have stood apart, studiously neutral”
CITING THE PRESIDENT $2,000 (Daily Double): In the early 20th c.: “I took the canal zone, & let Congress debate, & while the debate goes on the canal does also”

JEOPARDY! game #7806 aired 2018-07-16

4, 4 (two words, each with four letters) $1000: In 1848 Martin Van Buren was the presidential candidate of this party that opposed slavery in western territories

JEOPARDY! game #7868 aired 2018-11-21

PRESIDENTIAL IRONY, Final Jeopardy! 1 of the 2 Presidents who offered Daniel Webster the VP slot; he declined both, thinking the job went nowhere.

Answers below.

Why Thomas Jefferson Owned a Qur’an

Why James Madison would say our real problem is not misinformation

“The unrestricted competition so commonly advocated does not leave us the survival of the fittest. The unscrupulous succeed best in accumulating wealth.” Rutherford B. Hayes

Franklin D. Roosevelt’s State of the Union Message to Congress, January 11, 1944, including the Second Bill of Rights:
“We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence… People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.
“In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all — regardless of station, race, or creed.”

“I don’t give them Hell. I just tell the truth about them, and they think it’s Hell.” – Harry S Truman, 1948

“If a political party does not have its foundation in the determination to advance a cause that is right and that is moral, then it is not a political party; it is merely a conspiracy to seize power.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1956

The Eisenhower Matrix

When the President and His Chef Feuded Over Cold Beans

Thursday, August 8, 1974: the night that Richard M. Nixon resigned the presidency (three hours)

Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter pass up riches to live modest, giving and truthful lives

George HW Bush was a complex man who somehow perfectly embodied a simpler time: both a blue-blood and, to quote Nixon, a ‘nut-cutter’ who knew how to carry out the dirty work of politics

When New York Tried to Take Away a W

What Obama secretly did at Sandy Hook Elementary School

Pastor: When White Folks Say Obama Was an ‘Embarrassment’, Here’s What You Say

One Last Time (44 Remix) – Christopher Jackson, Barack Obama, Bebe Winans #Hamildrop

Answers to quizzes:

Summer Bowl 9:
The number of the age difference between the President and his First Lady
Jimmy Carter

JEOPARDY!
Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Abe Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, Teddy Roosevelt
Free Soil
William Henry Harrison or Zachary Taylor

Jackie and John Kennedy wedding
Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy and John Kennedy talking at their wedding reception, Newport, Rhode Island / Toni Frissell. 1907-1988, photographer, 12 September 1953


Photos from the Library of Congress. No known copyright restrictions.

Areopagitica: press attacked well before Nixon

The Milton argument regarding prohibition against prior restraint is fundamental to the US Constitution.

The New York State Writers Institute, a local treasure, offered a two-day, six-panel “symposium of topics crucial to an open democratic society” called Telling the Truth in a Post-truth World. The session I attended the evening of Friday the 13th of October at Page Hall on the UAlbany Downtown Campus, was “Presidents and the Press: Trump, Nixon & More.”

This turned out to be extremely timely because the Washington Post had just published Trump’s threat to NBC’s license is the very definition of Nixonian.

The moderator of the panel was Bob Schieffer, moderator of three presidential debates and former anchor of CBS Evening News and Face the Nation
The panelists included:
*Douglas Brinkley, CNN Presidential historian and biographer of Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford
*Amy Goodman, investigative reporter, host and producer of the award-winning news program, Democracy Now! that airs on over 1,400 public television and radio stations worldwide
*Harry Rosenfeld, Times Union editor-at-large, and former Metro Editor at The Washington Post who oversaw the paper’s coverage of Watergate
*Shane Goldmacher, chief White House correspondent for POLITICO, who previously reported on the 2016 Republican presidential primary campaign

There were some interesting moments, such as when Schieffer, who I’ve watched for decades, suggested that Goodman, who had a LOT of fans in the audience, was positing her opinions as facts, citing Daniel Patrick Moynihan. However, Goodman did note that it was important that the corporate media defend itself from attack from the regime.

Americans tend to think of freedom of the press as a uniquely American ideal that has spread throughout the world. But that value was codified more than a century earlier.

From here: “In 1644 the English poet and man of letters, John Milton, published the Areopagitica as an appeal to Parliament to rescind their Licensing Order of June 16th, 1643. This order was designed to bring publishing under government control by creating a number of official censors to whom authors would submit their work for approval prior to having it published. Milton’s argument, in brief, was that precensorship of authors was little more than an excuse for state control of thought.”

Although the freedom expressed took a half century to come to pass in Great Britain, the Milton argument regarding prohibition against prior restraint, or pre-publication censorship, is fundamental to the US Constitution. Threatening censorship prior to publication, as the current regime is suggesting, would have a chilling effect on expression and speech, and would interfere with the pursuit of truth.

Presidents Day 2017: Nixon’s the One

JFK Calls about Furniture


George Washington’s first inaugural address (April 1789), referring to himself: “One, who, inheriting inferior endowments from nature and unpractised in the duties of civil administration, ought to be peculiarly conscious of his own deficiencies.”

Now I Know: The Case of George Washington versus Pinocchio

John Quincy Adams: When The People Cheered

Presidents in Our Backyard – Part 1 (Martin Van Buren, Chester A. Arthur, Ulysses S. Grant)

The highest-ranked President who only served one-term is James Knox Polk.

Sarah Knox Taylor, the second daughter of Zachary Taylor and the first Mrs. Jefferson Davis

This is an actual standard fantasy I’ve had over the years: I’m captured, and the Americans think I’m a spy. I name all the Presidents correctly, including the year entering the office and political party – I really CAN do that – then they shoot me, because OBVIOUSLY, I’m a Soviet/Russian/Chinese spy, since NOBODY knows Millard Fillmore (1850-1853, Whig), who was New York State Comptroller before becoming Vice-President.

Worst president ever: The ignominy of James Buchanan – On the way to the Capitol for the inauguration of his successor on March 4, 1861, Buchanan told Abraham Lincoln, “If you are as happy in entering the White House as I shall feel on returning to Wheatland [his home in Pennsylvania], you are a happy man indeed.”

Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address (1861)
“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

Lincoln’s Great Depression

Now I Know The Vice:President (David Rice Atchison) and John Wilkes Booth’s Heroic Brother

Are You a Presidential Beard Connoisseur?

Ulysses S. Grant’s Veal & Sweet Potato Fries

The first President to ban immigrants?

Chris Churchill: A chat with President Chester A. Arthur

Now I Know: Grover Cleveland’s Pole Tax

‘All for each and each for all:’ Teddy Roosevelt’s Square Deal

Theodore Roosevelt holds that it is “unpatriotic, servile, and morally treasonable to proclaim that there must be no criticism of the President.” (1918)

Who was the first president to visit Canada? I was surprised.

Quora: Which US President had the most foresight?

Listening In: JFK Calls about Furniture (July 25, 1963)

Lyndon Johnson Speech Before Congress on Voting Rights (March 15, 1965): “There is no Negro problem. There is no Southern problem. There is no Northern problem. There is only an American problem. And we are met here tonight as Americans—not as Democrats or Republicans–we are met here as Americans to solve that problem.”

Lyndon Johnson orders pants.

Nixon Aide Reportedly Admitted Drug War Was Meant To Target Black People. “Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course, we did.” Anyone who read Michele Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow already knew this.

Nixon’s Vietnam Treachery. This was treason.
US fatalities in the Vietnam war:
1969 – 11,780
1970 – 6,173
1971 – 2,414
1972 – 759
1973 – 68
1974 – 1
1975 – 62

Now I Know: The Red Menace (Nixon in China)

Three Presidential $1 Coins were issued in 2016, the final year of the program, for Richard M. Nixon, Gerald R. Ford, and Ronald Reagan. Jimmy Carter had the audacity of still being alive; hope he’ll get one down the line, after he passes away.

Now I Know: Reagan and Gorbachev’s Green Pact

You Must Remember This podcast – Storm Warning: Ronald Reagan, the FBI and HUAC (THE BLACKLIST EPISODE #8)

10 Books to Understand the Obama Presidency

Presidential Payroll: What Commanders in Chief Have Earned Since 1789

40 years ago: the fall of Saigon

I knew a guy, Michael, who almost certainly died from Agent Orange exposure in early 1982, just after his daughter was born.

S. Vietnamese in Da Nang struggle to climb aboard ships that will evacuate them to Cam Ranh Ba
S. Vietnamese in Da Nang struggle to climb aboard ships that will evacuate them to Cam Ranh Ba

I’ve been reading several news articles about the documentary ‘Last Days in Vietnam’, directed by Rory Kennedy, daughter of RFK, which revisits the fall of Saigon in 1975. If I get the opportunity, I’ll have to watch it.

I became actively opposed to the Vietnam war in mid-1968, as much because of a 1967 speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. as anything.

Prior to that – I WAS only 15 -it was more that it was an American war, and I was an American, so I didn’t really need to think about it much.

After that evolution of thought, I actually LOOKED at how the United States, after France’s final defeat at Dien Bien Phu in 1954, ended up in Vietnam, first with “advisers”. Then, after the lie that spurred the Gulf of Tonkin resolution in August 1964, there was a much-expanded presence in Vietnam, propping up one failed leadership in South Vietnam after another.

Only much later, I discovered how Richard Nixon sabotaged the 1968 Vietnam peace talks to get elected President, an arguably treasonous act, something that cost the United States an additional 22,000 lives, of the 58,000 US military killed, not to mention those tens of thousands of Vietnamese, Cambodians and Laotians who died needlessly.

So when the Americans effectively stopped fighting in January 1973, through a program called Vietnamization – read this and see if it reminds you of the US policy in Iraq this century – it led to the inevitable collapse of the South Vietnam government. “By the end of April 30th, South Vietnam was wholly under the control of North Vietnam who swiftly announced the creation of a united Vietnam. Saigon was renamed Ho Chi Minh City.”

Yet I felt terrible about those South Vietnamese who were left behind, who undoubtedly felt the Americans would take care of them, but, for the most part, were not able to; an estimated one million people died after reunification. Moreover, I am fascinated by the normalization of relations between the US and a united Vietnam in the past three decades.

One of the legacies of the American involvement in the war the use of the defoliant Agent Orange. I knew a guy, Michael – a good friend of my girlfriend at the time – who almost certainly died from Agent Orange exposure in early 1982, just after his daughter was born. It took nearly another decade before the government acknowledged a link between the chemical and a number of neurological diseases.

Now the U.S. finally accepting responsibility for the devastating ongoing effects of Agent Orange in Vietnam. But is this funding just a way to get USAID in the door to meddle in the country’s affairs?
***
From 2015: SamuraiFrog revisits Good Morning, Vietnam.

From 2014: US Government sanitizes Vietnam War history.

From 2012: ‘Napalm Girl’: An Iconic Image Of War Turns 40.